Directed by LGBTQ+ icons like Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy and Janet Mock, groundbreaking FX hit drama series “Pose” tells the story of the New York LGBTQ+ ballroom scene of the 80’s. Focusing on the lives of five dynamic Trans women, Pose centers the story of Blanca Evangelista (played by MJ Rodriguez) and her journey of creating a house and legacy worthy of legendary status. Taking in wayward souls like Damon Richards, (played by Ryan Jamal Swain) a young gay disowned teen with dreams of becoming a professional dancer, or hidden talent Angel Evangelista, (played by Indya Moore) who dreams of becoming a professional model, Pose tells a story of chosen family, community and triumph. More importantly, Pose provides representation and sheds light on a community we least hear from: Black Trans Women.
While Black trans women and femmes have always existed, it is rare that we have seen their stories and experiences reflected in the media of today. Oftentimes for the sake of LGBTQ+ representation, mainstream media will prioritize cisgender folk of the community, leaving trans women, especially Black trans women, to go unheard. Once in a blue moon when these stories are amplified, many of them either get the depiction of trans women and femmes wrong, such as in “Silence of the Lambs,” or focus solely on the violence they face, like in crime shows such as NCIS, CSI, or Law & Order. Black trans women and femmes falling in love has been unheard of. Black trans women and femmes finding community has not been depicted. And Black trans women and femmes truly thriving has not been televised, until Pose.
Through the stories of trans characters such as Blanca Evangelista, Elektra Abundance (played by Dominique Jackson), Angel Evangelista, Candy Ferocity (played by Angelica Ross) and Lulu Ferocity (played by Hallie Sahar), Pose shows trans women in their true light. Pose offers audiences stories of Trans women finding community, love, and journeying from surviving to thriving.
Blanca Evangelista, the main heroine of the series, shows that thriving for trans women is possible. Going from engaging in survival sex on the piers of New York, to a step up in owning her own nail salon, to her final height of gaining her degree in Nursing; Blanca’s narrative shows her determination and epitomizes the ability to write one’s own story and disregard the script handed to you by society. Through Blanca’s narrative audiences, transgender and cisgender alike, are able to see trans women overcome obstacles and not be drowned out by the adversity of life Pose not only shows Black trans women thriving but also provides a model for the way Black trans women deserve to be loved.
Through love stories like Angel’s and Papi’s, and Blanca’s and Christopher’s, we are able to see trans women in healthy relationships with partners that don’t end in violence, but rather grow in gentleness and partnership. Angel and Papi’s relationship shows the trauma trans women like Angel have with previous partners not treating them appropriately and what it looks like to have a partner that still loves you through it. Their relationship shows that trans women deserve a partnership that not only is gentle but also that builds each other’s character and outlook on life. What starts off as Angel’s solo dream of becoming a model turns into her owning a modeling agency with her partner Papi. Blanca and Christopher’s story mirrors this soft and gentle love through the way Christopher supports and affirms Blanca.
Blanca through navigating letting down her walls to be loved is constantly affirmed and supported by her partner Christopher. At no times in the series is Christopher dismissive of Blanca’s troubles or worries, rather he constantly offers her a listening ear and words of wisdom. Christopher serves as symbol of many straight men who fall in love with women of trans experience, and the necessary patience but also protection many Trans women need and desire. Through their relationship Pose shows that trans women are not only worthy to be loved but also worthy to be protected, but those outside of the community and within.
Lulu and Candy Ferocity show trans women that it is possible to find joy and sisterhood in one another. Through times of homelessness and trying to survive the real life hardships of what it meant to be a trans woman navigating the New York of the 1980’s, Lulu and Candy show what it means to support one another. Their friendship through thick and thin, hell & high water, shows Trans women that not only can they survive without the help of the outside world but they can find sisterhood and support in one another.
Characters like Elektra remind us all that contrary to popular belief, being trans and a story of struggle does determine where you will end up. Elektra’s character is shown as highly ambitious and while selfish to some, Elektra shows trans women that it is okay to prioritize one’s own needs. Oftentimes marginalized communities are often forced to cater to everyone else’s comfortability in their daily existence. To dream little dreams to allow others to feel comfortable. Elektra’s character shatters these expectations and tells trans women to exist boldly, go after everything you want, and look good while doing it.
Pose, through the stories of these 5 women, reminds the world that trans women are not a monolith. Just as Blanca dreamed of becoming a nurse and Angel desired stardom, trans women’s dreams are just as unique and different. It reminds the world and the trans community that they can be more than their circumstance, more than their pasts, and more than what society tells them they can be.
As a transgender nonbinary femme, watching Pose was my first seeing myself in media. Seeing what it could mean for me to dream without limits and exist beyond the script that society tries to hand me, and those in my community. Pose serves as a reminder to all the young trans women and femmes dreaming out there that we deserve to live abundant lives, work without fear and pose in all of our glory.
All 3 seasons of FX hit drama series Pose are available to stream on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.